Moses has accomplished the exodus from Egypt, but his troubles are not over. In this week's portion, Beshallach, (Ex. 13:17 - 17:16) Pharaoh once again has a change of heart and regrets letting the Israelites go. He sends his armies of chariots after them. The Israelites, camped by the Sea of Reeds, are caught between the armies of Pharoah and the sea. Terrified, they blame Moses, saying, "Why did you take us out of Egypt, just for us to die in the wilderness?" Moses turns to God, and prays for deliverance on behalf of the people. And God gives him a surprising answer: "Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you, lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground". God is telling Moses that not every moment is a time for prayer, but that sometimes it is a moment for action.
Mishkan T'filah, the new
prayerbook of the Reform movement, has a short reading which says, "Pray
as if everything depended on God. Act as if everything depended on
you." The reading is attributed to Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman, but is
remarkably similar to the words of St. Augustine: "Pray as if
everything depended on God; work as if everything depended on you". I
think this just proves that good thoughts make the rounds of all
religions. There are so many things beyond the power of human beings,
but also so much that is within our grasp. The important thing is that
we need both prayer and action.